Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A is for Any:

When my father entered law school at Columbia, the students gambled a lot. They held parties in their rooms at which quite a bit of money exchanged hands. After a while there was an armed robbery. The university was horrified that this loose dough had attracted robbers with guns, and it was declared that there would be no more gambling. But lawschoolers are competitive. Evenings, they turned to playing Guggenheim. Here's how to play. You may know this game by another name, “Categories.” In short, you have to think of words that begin with specific letters and fit certain categories, and you score high if you choose words that nobody else thinks of.

On the evening in question, one category was “words ending in A N Y”, and one of the starting letters was A. My father thought of a word beginning in A and ending in ANY, and he proudly wrote it down: “any”. None of the other eight players thought of this word. When time was up, they shared their words and scored the round. There was a furious argument about “any”, and eventually it was disallowed. (If you can't imagine why, my father would have loved you. The category is for words that begin with A, and end in ANY; that implies they begin with a different A than the A in 'any', don't you get it?)

Are you wondering how I came to know about this argument? Do you suspect that when I reached my sixteenth birthday or so, my father took me out to the middle of the Ashokan Reservoir in a boat and revealed the story to me, along with other great secrets of manhood? Well, no. Here's what happened: whenever my father got together with his friends from law school, the argument started up again. I heard both sides of this argument many times. My father never gave up trying to prove the obvious, that he had been right.
Post a Comment